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Luis Saez rides Maximum Security across the finish line first followed by Flavien Prat on Country House during the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 4, 2019, in Louisville, Ky. Country House was declared the winner after Maximum Security was disqualified following a review by race stewards. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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On the roster: Are you a Derby person or a Belmont person? – Border aid bill passes, heads to the president’s desk – Trump heading into key meeting with Chinese ruler – Audible: Friends helping friends? – Jim Gaffigan, call your office
ARE YOU A DERBY PERSON OR A BELMONT PERSON?
Something like 16 million people watched the Kentucky Derby this year. Ladies put on hats and folks stood in tents in their neighbors’ back yards and drank too-sweet mint juleps and made $5 bets based on favorite colors, names and numbers.
It was a hoot.
But a month later, fewer than 5 million people watched television coverage of the Belmont Stakes, the final Triple Crown race of the year. Unless you’re a horse person or happen to live near Elmont on New York’s Long Island, you probably didn’t even know it was happening.
We mention this just now because it might be helpful for political junkies looking for some perspective about the effects of the first two Democratic presidential debates, which were held this week in Miami.
If you’re deeply enough interested in politics to subscribe to this note, you are well aware that the debates took place. You probably have some thoughts about who won and who lost. You may have even watched with phone or iPad in hand, following the social media storms blowing about on Twitter or Facebook.
You, like us, are Belmont people living in a Kentucky Derby world.
Now, your opinions matter a good deal more than average voters simply because you are also probably influencers. You’re like the guy at the Derby party whose neighbors treat as a horse tout. You know poll standings and fundraising numbers like they know who runs better on mud and who won at Remington.
We think this bears mentioning because, understandably, the hype has gotten ahead of the horses.
There’s no question that Sen. Kamala Harris had the best overall performance in the debates. After a strong start, she had underwhelmed in interviews and town halls for several months. But she scored big with her set piece against frontrunner Joe Biden for his 1970’s opposition to mandatory busing – when black students were sent beyond their neighborhoods to white school districts in an attempt to promote diversity and diminish inequality.
It was a big moment, but after the debate, an interviewer actually asked Harris, in effect, if Biden’s presidential aspiration had been ended by the exchange. As the Democratic contenders might say, ay caramba.
There are at least nine more debates to go and 31 weeks until the Iowa Caucuses. While it’s true that Harris strongly solidified her status as a contender and Biden reinforced doubts about his fitness, these debates were not the end of anything. We’re not even at the end of the beginning yet.
The most consequential results of the debate will be for those hanging on to the bottom rungs and poor old Beto O’Rourke.
The former Texas congressman was largely a creation of Belmont people and his performance – like a college kid who smoked too much pot before going to the grocery store and found himself in an argument with the butcher over the meaning of “organic” – will hurt him badly.
For others living in the political plankton – Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar, Reps. Tim Ryan and Eric Swalwell and a few others – it will be increasingly hard to keep up the pretense of a full campaign. The “anybody could win” riff gets harder to sell to donors and staffers after their performances.
Others in the teeming ocean of third-tier contenders, like former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker and Andrew Yang, probably got an extension from their good performances. And Marianne Williamson, who, like Pat Benatar, knows love is a battlefield, may get to be the mystical mascot for the field.
For the contenders other than Biden and Harris, nobody did anything likely to much change their trajectories. Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were unremarkable and Pete Buttigieg couldn’t quite meet the sky-high expectations he faced.
But these are observations that really only matter to us Belmont people. While they may prove prescient, they are not of interest to Derby folks who just came for the juleps.
THE RULEBOOK: SETTING BOUNDARIES
“If a federal Constitution could chain the ambition or set bounds to the exertions of all other nations, then indeed might it prudently chain the discretion of its own government, and set bounds to the exertions for its own safety.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 41
TIME OUT: TWINKLE, TWINKLE LITTLE ASTEROID
The Sun: “NASA is eyeing up a nearby asteroid that contains enough gold to make everyone on Earth a billionaire. Psyche 16 is nestled between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and is made of solid metal. As well as gold, the mysterious object is loaded with heaps of platinum, iron and nickel. In total, it’s estimated that Psyche’s various metals are worth a gargantuan $10,000 quadrillion. That means if we carried it back to Earth, it would destroy commodity prices and cause the world’s economy – worth $75.5 trillion – to collapse. We’ve known about Psyche 16 for a while, but its potential to cause havoc on Earth was recently touched upon by a veteran miner. Scott Moore, who heads up EuroSun Mining, said the sheer amount of gold in the asteroid threatens to throw the gold industry into chaos. … NASA is launching a mission to probe the asteroid in summer 2022. Dubbed the Discovery Mission, it will arrive at Psyche 16 around 2026.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
Trump job performance
Average approval: 44.5 percent
Average disapproval: 52 percent
Net Score: -7.4 points
Change from one week ago: no change
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 42% approve – 51% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 49% approve – 48% disapprove; Fox News: 45% approve – 53% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 44% approve – 53% disapprove; Gallup: 43% approve – 55% disapprove.]
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BORDER AID BILL HEADS TO THE PRESIDENT’S DESK
Reuters: “Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives backed down to President Donald Trump and passed a $4.6 billion aid package to address a migrant surge at the U.S.-Mexico border without the additional protections for migrant children that liberals had sought. Trump, the Republican-controlled Senate and moderate Democrats insisted on finishing the emergency aid bill as soon as possible, without further haggling over demands for greater migrant safeguards and reduced immigration enforcement spending. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, said shortly before the vote that her colleagues were giving up their fight for now over changes to the measure, which had already passed the Senate. ‘At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the resources needed to protect the children are available,’ she said in a statement. … The House vote was 305 to 102, with 71 out of 235 House Democrats voting against the Senate bill.”
Liberals fuming – Politico: “Democrats broke into open warfare Thursday over Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s surrender to the Senate’s emergency border aid package, with the caucus’ long-simmering divide between progressives and centrists playing out in dramatic fashion on the House floor. Some lawmakers even resorted to public name-calling, with progressive leader Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) accusing moderate Democrats of favoring child abuse — an exchange on Twitter that prompted two freshmen centrists to confront him directly on the floor, with other lawmakers looking on in shock. … The battle further illustrates the hurdles Pelosi faces in the fall as she tries to keep her caucus united while negotiating with Republicans to avoid a fiscal cliff and debt default.”
SupCo to hear DACA termination arguments – Politico: “The Supreme Court will hear arguments over the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the court said Friday. The announcement sets up a legal showdown later this year over President Donald Trump’s decision to remove protections that allow 669,000 Dreamers — who were illegally brought to the U.S. or overstayed a visa as children — to live and work in the United States legally. The high court could assign the case for argument as soon as October. The news comes as Trump and congressional Democrats continue to feud over his aggressive immigration crackdown and a growing influx of migrant families and children at the Southwest border.”
TRUMP HEADING INTO KEY MEETING WITH CHINESE RULER
NYT: “President Trump voiced optimism on Friday afternoon about upcoming trade talks with China, saying that his planned meeting on Saturday morning with China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, would be productive. Taking questions during a joint news conference with President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Mr. Trump talked repeatedly about the Xi meeting, while avoiding specific predictions. ‘At a minimum, it will be productive — we’ll see what happens and what comes out of it,’ Mr. Trump said. He denied recent news reports that he had promised not to impose any new tariffs on China in order to arrange his meeting with Mr. Xi on Saturday. ‘No, I didn’t promise,’ he said. Mr. Trump’s senior aides have just gone through the necessary legal steps for him to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on $300 billion a year worth of American imports from China. But they have not given any timetable for when he might actually do so.”
Trump yuks it up Putin – USA Today: “Three years after Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election triggered federal investigations, President Donald Trump asked Vladimir Putin on Friday not to do it again in 2020 – though he did so quickly and playfully. ‘Don’t meddle in the election, president,’ Trump said in a joking manner to Putin as cameras clicked and reporters shouted questions. Wagging a finger at the Russian president, Trump repeated, ‘don’t meddle in the election.’ When an interpreter translated Trump’s ‘request,’ Putin laughed. Later, a White House readout of the meeting said Trump and Putin discussed arms control, Iran, Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine – but said nothing about election interference. Trump’s light-hearted manner did not go down well with critics who accused him off laughing off a legitimate threat from an autocrat who has a grudge against the United States.”
Pelosi says Congress doesn’t have a role in latest Trump sexual assault allegations – WaPo
Senate to vote on bill limiting Trump’s Iran options – Bloomberg
AUDIBLE: FRIENDS HELPING FRIENDS?
“Capitol subway is stuck. Look who I just came upon trapped inside. @brianschatz if you’re not out in 30 minutes text me and I will try to find help.” – Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., tweeted on Friday with a picture of Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, trapped in a Capitol subway car.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Tune in this weekend as Mr. Sunday sits down with White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
JIM GAFFIGAN, CALL YOUR OFFICE
Kansas City Star: “A semitrailer overturned Thursday morning along Interstate 70 in Missouri, dumping a truckload of Hot Pockets along the side of the road, according to police. Missouri State Highway Troopers tweeted a picture of the overturned semi and piles of boxes filled with what appeared to be pepperoni pizza Hot Pockets. The semi was traveling west in Saline County, Missouri, when it overturned, troopers said.No injuries were reported. But a westbound lane of the busy interstate was shut down while crews cleaned up the mess, troopers said. And no one was allowed to take a box. ‘Even if you have the munchies you can’t have the hot pockets!!! #SlowYourRoll #DriveSafe #kctraffic,’ the troopers tweeted.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“The most difficult part of space travel is the first 150 miles escaping gravity and navigating the atmosphere. Beyond that, space travel gets relatively easy. And it is also beyond that that space travel gets glorious – and interesting.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in The Weekly Standard on Feb. 17, 2003.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
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